[by Joanne Reynolds] If you are a caregiver to a loved one who is suffering from dementia, you are experiencing something psychologists call ambiguous loss. It’s a particular form of grief that centers on the fact that you’ve lost the person you know and love as their personalities, memories and ability to function are overtaken by their dementia. It is a particularly painful form of loss because they are still living and you are with them constantly, but they are increasingly gone from you.
When someone we love dies, we grieve their departure. We miss them. Their deaths become a dividing line in our lives. We date our personal calendars by the events that happened before their deaths and the things that occur after. “Mom was still alive, so I think that it must have been in 1974,” I might say.
In ambiguous loss, there is no dividing line, no clean break, just the on-going, day-to-day disappearance of your loved one as their brains function less and less. They are here and gone at the same time.